Case Management Principles

A.  General Case Management Principles in an Adjudicative System

  1. The tribunal controls its process

    A fundamental principle of case management in any adjudicative system is that the tribunal controls its processes. Although the tribunal does not have to consult counsel on a case-by-case basis as to their availability, the tribunal will consult counsel as to their availability in the course of assessing whether parties are ready to proceed for a hearing. The tribunal is receptive to external suggestions about how to manage its processes better, but it accommodates suggestions where they agree with the tribunal's objectives.

  2. Equitable treatment, but not identical treatment

    The tribunal treats parties before it equitably. However, it does not follow from this principle that it treats parties identically, as equal treatment is not synonymous with identical treatment. The essence of justice lies in recognizing the particular circumstances of each case. As the circumstances of cases differ, the tribunal must have the capacity to differentiate between cases and give each case its due.

  3. Matching each case to a process appropriate to the demands of the case

    The principle of equal, but not identical, treatment is realized when the tribunal examines each case and matches it to a process that corresponds to the procedural and substantive demands of that case. This entails differentiating cases based on their level of complexity, their urgency or the novelty of the issues they raise.

  4. Administering the tribunal's process with transparency, consistency, fairness and firmness

    The quality of any adjudicative system will be measured by how it treats the users of that system. The principles above must inform the tribunal's system of case management and, furthermore users must understand these principles and how the tribunal operates. Efficiency is gained because the users are able to adapt their presentation of cases to these principles.

B.  General Case Management Principles in an Administrative Tribunal

Where the adjudicative system is an administrative tribunal, the principles set out above have to be tailored to the particular nature of tribunal adjudication, and therefore they are informed by basic tribunal values.

  1. Pragmatism and the specialist nature of an administrative tribunal

    Insofar as tribunals are created by legislatures in order to accomplish a specific task, and are not vested with a general jurisdiction, they have an obligation to act pragmatically. What that amounts to is looking for the most practical ways of efficiently achieving the task within the scope of their jurisdiction. Case management systems in administrative tribunals have to focus on flexibility, rather than formality and rigidity. Thus, a scheduling process of first-in-first-out that focuses solely on the criteria of when a claim is referred to the RPD is not flexible.

  2. Adjudication Strategy

    An adjudication strategy builds on the principle of institutional deliberation by identifying emerging or unresolved issues that frequently arise in a tribunal's jurisprudence and addressing them systematically. In Consolidated-Bathurst,1 the Supreme Court of Canada endorsed the principle underlying such a strategy for administrative tribunals. The effect of this decision is to encourage tribunals to develop consistency in decision-making by having decision-makers discuss issues in plenary sessions while respecting the adjudicative independence of the hearing panel whose case is under discussion.

  3. Informality / accessibility to non-lawyers, unrepresented parties

    In order to function as alternatives to courts, tribunals have to promote a greater level of access to justice. That means that case management systems, and in particular the way in which the public understands and has access to those systems, must be simple and clear.

  4. Accountability to Parliament

    The degree of accountability to legislatures distinguishes tribunals from courts. The practical effect of an accountability requirement is that the tribunal sets out a management plan and reports to the legislature on its performance in light of that plan. This requires a case management system that enables the tribunal to meet its commitments in qualitative and quantitative terms.

C.  RPD Specific Case Management Principles

  1. Not all claims are the same

    The RPD realizes that not all claims before it are the same. That is why the fast track process and the expedited process were established, whereby claims are "triaged" into various streams that have a corresponding level of resources for processing.

  2. Case load issues can affect case management strategies

    The RPD has a different type of caseload than many tribunals, in that it receives many cases from countries where the conditions and issues are similar. Thus, volume of claims and similarity in determinative issues are legitimate criteria for setting certain processing priorities. This is particularly true in a situation where the country is the number one source country, the country conditions are relatively stable, and there is significant consistency in decision-making. Thus, it is legitimate to give processing priorities to those cases to ensure efficient use of scarce resources.

  3. Legal instruments supporting the right to priority process refugee claims
    • Subsection 162(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) requires each division to "deal with all proceedings before it as informally and quickly as the circumstances and the considerations of fairness and natural justice permit."
    • Prassad v. Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration), [1989] 1 S.C.R. 560: "…As a general rule, these tribunals are considered to be masters in their own house. In the absence of specific rules laid down by statute or regulation, they control their own procedures subject to the provision that they comply with the rules of fairness and, where they exercise judicial or quasi-judicial functions, the rules of natural justice…."
    • Guideline 6, Scheduling and Changing the Date or Time of a Proceeding issued by the Chairperson pursuant to paragraph 159(1)(h) of the IRPA.


  1. IWA v. Consolidated-Bathurst Packaging Ltd., [1990] 1 S.C.R. 282.